England’s marine environment is not as well understood or protected as the terrestrial environment. It requires particular attention and focus to develop the evidence, protection, sustainable use, understanding and appreciation of our seascapes and marine biodiversity.
The marine environment is protected through a variety of national and international legislation and policies. At a international and European level the key mechanisms are:
At a national level the key mechanisms are
Site protection is afforded though a number of designations. Together these will form a network of Marine Protected Areas – Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive, Special Protection Areas for birds (under the Birds Directive), SSSIs which occasionally cover sub-tidal areas and in future Marine Conservation Zones under the Marine Act.
Activities in the marine environment are regulated by a licensing regime and within European marine sites by the Habitats Regulations. Natural England advises developers and regulators on the environmental impact of activities. The Marine and Coastal Access Act will include provisions for establishing a system of marine planning, a new Marine Protected Area designation, fisheries management, marine licensing and establishing a new marine management organisation.
Natural England leads on the marine workstream of the England Biodiversity Strategy, which is responsible for ensuring delivering the marine Biodiversity Action Plans.